Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Photo Fakery: Washington, DC Flying Saucers 1952

The DC Deception (Last Updated 9/18/21)

The flying saucers reported over Washington, DC in July 1952 is one of the most famous events in UFO history. Objects were tracked on radar, and Air Force planes were sent out to investigate, and reportedly, UFOs were seen by at least one pilot and radar operator. 

It's an important historical event, worthy of examination, but...
There are rumors and myths too, such as it being widely witnessed by panicking citizens or that photos exist of the event.

Weird Science-Fantasy #26 from EC, 1954 

If you need a recap, it was covered at the time in the August 4, 1952 issue of LIFE magazine

It was also covered in a NBC television broadcast, "We the People," which featured interviews with the radar operator witnesses. See The Saucers That Time Forgot: UFOs on TV: The 1952 Washington, DC Saucer Flap.

Had there been a photograph of UFOs during the incidents, Life Magazine would have been happy to publish them. None surfaced despite this being among the most heavily publicized cases in US history.

The Fake

In 1965, over a decade after the events, a photograph was published, and ever since has appeared in almost every discussion and article on the Washington, DC, case, from books, to the internet, documentaries, and television shows. The trouble is, it's a phony.

Well, the photo itself is real, but it is misrepresented and fraudulently used, then accepted and repeated as genuine by people who should know better. It was taken several years after the event, and instead of UFOs, it depicts the reflection of the Capitol's lamps - lens flares.

Many versions exist, cropped in color...

black and white for a more "historical" look...

tweaked with photoshop and so on...

Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos reports:
FOTOCAT's input follows:
Event date: July 19, 1952
Location: Washington, D.C. (USA)
Date information: Non-event (actually dated 1965)
Event is filed as: Lens flares
Time: Between 23:40 and 06:00
Photographer: Unknown

The first known publication of the picture is in Ray Palmer's Flying Saucers No. 81, Summer 1973

This time, Flying Saucers are not real.

Exposed and Forgotten

As seen on the magazine cover above, it's often cropped to remove the lamps, the source of the "UFOs." It was exposed long ago, in a detailed analysis by Colman von Keviczky that was published in Official UFO Magazine #9, July 1976. A summary by Dr. Bruce Maccabee :
This picture which shows the Capitol dome and lights at the left side is, I believe, just a fraction of the total picture which shows the whole Capitol building, parking lot lights in front of it and numerous "UFO" lights in the sky at both the left and right sides of the dome. Colman von Kevicsky, years ago, showed the "UFO" light images were actually lens "flares"....reflections within the lens of the bright streetlights and parking lot lights in front of the Capitol. 
Reconstruction of the Official UFO Magazine analysis,
showing how the "UFOs" correspond to the lamps as lens flares.

UFOs: The American Scene by Michael Hervey, 1976.
“Jacket photograph: UFOs over the Capitol, Washington, D.C."

UFO Exist! by Paris Flammonde, G.P. Putnam´s, 1976, featured a large photo section in that center that included the photo, but did not present it as genuine. The caption stated it was a: “supposed UFO formation… a reoccurrence of the classic 1952 case.”

UFO Exist! by Paris Flammonde, 1976

The photo was included in April 1979 Omni magazine issue in "UFOS: A Gallery of Photographs," the Lee Spiegel article, "First Contact." The tiny caption describes the picture:
"famous UFO formation over Capitol thought by many to be a reflection in camera lens."
Omni, April 1979

The Omni article prompted skeptic James Randi to include the photo in his 1980 book, Flim-Flam!, where he included a diagram demonstrating how the lens flares reflected the lights at the base of the building.

Here's another photo analysis from 2009. 1952 Washington DC UFO (Capitol Building) photo: 

Motion Pictures?

Nevertheless, once a fake gets into the UFO bloodstream it lives forever. The internet and television assured its immortality. There are even phony motion pictures of it.

Disney's Alien Encounters from New Tommorowland, 1995 features a clip 
of animated UFOs over the Capitol at 10:26.

a different animated version of the photo.

Breakdown - 1952 UFOs Over Washington DC Video
explaining the phony film version

Also recycled for Unseen Alien Files, where astonishingly, 

it was labelled a reconstruction.
Recycled in Stephen Greer's 2013 Sirius,
b&w to make it look "authentic!"

Steven Bassett used the same phony animation in Paradigm Research Group's 2013 in 
promo video for the Citizen Hearing on UFO Disclosure.  
MUFON's Hangar 1: The UFO Files featured many imaginative recreations.
Here, they imitate EC comics,

Hangar 1: Presidential Encounters from 2014

National Geographic produced UFO Conspiracies 
aka Invasion EarthTheir recreation from 2014.

Baloney Indicator

A Google Image search returns many, many versions.

2016 Update:

Jan Harzan, the director of MUFON, used this fake photo on a 2016 UFO lecture, saying, "These are visual photographs of the actual objects."
Jan Harzan, Oct. 29, 2016, lecture at the Explorers Club event Space Stories in New York.
These are just a tiny fraction of the appearances of the photo. By gathering some of this data, maybe this will show up alongside the search returns, and people can get some better information on the history. We've not seen the last of this one, but just remember that whenever you see it, you are looking at a lie, ineptitude, misinformation or disinformation on the part of whoever is presenting it. 

The DC deception's inclusion as an indicator of a high baloney content. It shows that they're not a trustworthy source. 

2018 Update:

The Italian UFO group CUN hosted a presentation in Rome on Oct. 27, 2018 by Tom DeLonge on the To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Luis Elizondo on the AATIP.  Elizondo discussed some UFO history, including the famous 1952 Washington, DC saucer event saying:
"In the early 1950s, the United States had another very significant event over our nation’s Capitol. Once again, these objects were identified both with the naked eye and again on radar, and unlike Roswell, many people had cameras and were able to take photographs. And what you see here are real photographs, along with the story - the headline story that came out."

"real photographs"

Elizondo's picture came from the internet, a YouTube preview image for the video, "UFO Sightings over Washington D.C. and The White House in 1952," by FindingUFO.

It is composed of two images:
1, a frame from a CGI-animated version of a picture of lens flares from UFO's: The Secret Evidence, and
2, a b&w version of an image from the 1954 comic book, Weird Science-Fantasy #26 found in the files of Project Blue Book.

Luis Elizondo published an update on the Facebook page of To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science on Nov. 1, 2018, which stated in part:
"While providing general background, I indicated that one particular slide contained real photographs of UAPs over Washington DC. It did not. The slide was intended to be illustrative but was presented as factual and with the help of a few individuals, I quickly realized the error. I acknowledge the misstatement and sent an immediate 'mea culpa' note to my TTS Academy team... it was an oversight on my part, and it will not happen again."

2021 Update

James Fox's documentary, Phenomenon was shown in by the Travel Chanel in their “Shock Docs” series about paranormal encounters as The UFO Phenomenon. 

While labeled "Artistic Rendition," Fox's use of it perpetuates the legitimacy of the phony saucer photo, which matches nothing that was witnessed or photographed.

This fake UFO photo is like Dracula in the movies. It rises from the grave again and again.

. . .
Thanks to Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos, Nab Lator, Gilles Fernandez and the others mentioned above for helping straighten out the fact from fiction in the DC picture.


  1. While the photos may be faked, the incident was indeed real. My grandfather was one of the pilots (An Air Force Col. at the time) that flew the sortie. He has drawings & witness accounts from his colleagues at the time that would blow the average persons mind. Unfortunately, until there's proof...i guess we're all a bit nuts, right?

    1. There are some UFO historians that would be very interested in seeing those drawing and witness accounts you mention preserved and shared for the record on this historic incident. I'd be glad to put you in touch with them.
      Email me at sentry579@gmail.com

    2. Just curious...did this connection ever happen? Or is this another claim that nobody followed up on, and is likely another LARP?

    3. No. "Anonymous" has yet to produce this mind blowing evidence.

    4. The writer of this article is obviously clueless! I have located several first hand witnesses from the day of this event, and what they say is the footage shows exactly what they saw: http://ufodc.com/page%2026.html secondly I actually do UFO research and my data says your information especially the analysis, lacks scientific credibility. July 16, 1952 and July 16, 2002 http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/386164/ ET landed, and I took pictures.

    5. I did an analysis of the 1952 foiotage and for those to say CGI: Tell me what program made this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B0o_7n4S3o I teach Autodesk 3D in Graduate School, so for you to say its animation, you must know what program rendered it?

    6. There's also a video of this event, not just the still photos.

    7. Seth, several of the faked videos are discussed in the article. Some of them animate the still picture, while at least two of the others are CGI animation. If you know of something else, please post a link.

  2. Photos aren't real,but the event they portray did indeed happen.

    1. 1952 Washington UFO Photo and Video Debunked, but the Incident is Not

  3. That's weird. I've never heard of any lens flares being caught on radar!!

    1. It almost sounds like you didn't read the article. Whatever was caught on radar, the photo is not a picture of it, since the lens flare photo was taken over a decade later. It has no value as UFO evidence.

  4. Jan Harzan, director of MUFON: "These are visual photographs of the actual objects."

    Frankly, I find aural photographs to be more reliable.

  5. Thank you for setting this out. I've been trying to find out the truth behind these images I see when I look up information on the Washington incident. Its good to know the truth.

  6. Je te cites’ il y avait eu une photo d'ovnis lors de ces incidents, Life Magazine aurait été ravie de les publier. Aucune n'a été signalée alors que ce cas est l'un des cas les plus médiatisés de l'histoire des États-Unis." Cela se passe au-dessus du capitole, crois-tu vraiment que l'armée ou les services secrets ne se sont pas emparer de la photo et dit aux journalistes de rien dévoilé car il y a risque de sécurité pour le président. Quand un ovni est découvert par le public, 5 minutes après l'armée et le service secret arrivent et saisissent tous et conseille les témoins de se la fermer au risque de leur vie. Cet exemple c'est produit à plusieurs reprises et ça se passait dans les bois et champs et même désert alors imagine en pleine ville au-dessus du capitole et tout près de la maison blanche. Autres citations: «lanternes lumineuses et des feux de stationnement devant le Capitole." premièrement, les lumières qu'on voit sont légèrement orientées vers nous alors que les points dans le ciel se retrouve derrière le capitole. Ensuite j'ai compté 4 lanternes lumineuses dont tu n'as pas fait de petite lignes bleues pourquoi? Parce que tu t'es rendu compte qu'il manquait 4 lumières blanches dans le ciel. Pourtant elles devraient y être. Deuxièmement, tu ne peux pas voir les points blancs dans le ciel faite par les lanternes, car la lumière n’arrête pas. On n’est pas dans un film de Batman. La vraie photo originale dont tu dis qu'elle a été prise 10 ans plus tard n'indique pas s'il y avait des nuages ou non dans le ciel pour faire refléter la lumière. Donc tu ne sais pas plus que nous. Ha c'est vrai on peut voir des nuages sur la fausse photo en couleur, mais pas partout. Ensuite je me suis demandé, Si les lumières du capitole ont fait des points blancs dans le ciel ce soir-là, ils devraient aussi en faire d'autres soirs dans les mêmes conditions météorologiques non? J'ai regardé un tas de photos du capitole la nuit et nuages ou ciel clair, il n'y a pas de points blancs dans le ciel. Tu veux que je continu? Non je vais arrêter le temps que tu digères ça.

    1. Noah, in the US version of "House of Cards," the opening credit scenes have a shot of the Capitol where a lens flare produces a "UFO."

      There are other such photos and films - keep looking!

  7. 一群UFO从白宫上缓慢飞过,没有一个媒体看到,拍到?居然还有这么多人相信?????媒体都瞎了

  8. What a rubbish article. First of all James Randi can't be trusted as he has been busted tampering with evidence several times. Second of all, you must be missing your eyes if you think that those are lense flares. If I must explain, you should really not be in this conversation. Randi's 'evidence' seems to hand pick lights on the bottom to make it fit the ones above, but just skips over the ones that don't fit the ones above. How convenient! Let alone that lens flares dont work like that at all. This is just debunkers back engineering to the result they want to have.

  9. What a rubbish comment. First of all James Randi wasn't mentioned in the original draft of the article, and when his bit on the case was discovered, added for historical completeness. Second of all, you must be missing your eyes if you think those 1960s lens flares are evidence of flying saucers - or connected to the 1952 events in any way. I suggest you become familiar with lens flares, but until then, you should really not be in this conversation.